As an air conditioner enthusiast I’m fascinated by the way air conditioning has evolved throughout the years. In this article, I will try to give you a brief overview of the history of refrigeration and air conditioners .
The beginning of “cooling” a.k.a. “air conditioning”
Air conditioning actually began in China around the second Century where a local inventor named Ding Huan created a manual rotary fan to cool things off.
The First Air Conditioner
The ‘thanks’ for setting pathway to modern air conditioning goes to “inventer of everything” Benjamin Franklin. Ben conducted experiments with alcohol and how/when things evaporate and was able to attend freezing temperatures.
However, the the first modern air conditioner was invented by Willis Haviland Carrier.
Willis was a skilled engineer. In an effort to solve an application problem at a printing Warehouse in Brooklyn he began experimenting with humidity control. He based his work on the mechanical Refrigeration Concepts which was developed in previous years. Carrier devise a system which sent air through coils filled with cold water. The flow of cold water cooled the air and removed moisture at the same time.
Willis established a company called the Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America which developed the first version of the modern air conditioner in 1933. For his contributions, Willis Haviland carrier is designated as the Father of Air Conditioner.
While basic principles stay the same, today’s air conditioners are made more efficient by advancements in air compression, sensors, materials, controls and energy requirement.
The standards set by the US Department of energy also helps drive the progress of modern air conditioning systems.
Furthermore today’s innovation, smart technologies and automation have helped further improved efficiency and efficacy air conditioning systems.
History of Air Conditioning: A Timeline
Here is a timeline of the history of modern air conditioning, starting from all the way back in 1758 when Benjamin Franklin discovered how to freeze water to the invention of modern air conditioning systems that we use today.
Benjamin Franklin of the United States and John Hadley of the Cambridge University in UK work on on a series of experiments to investigate latent heat. They discover how to cool down a substance and make it cold enough to freeze water. Define that evaporation of volatile liquids such as alcohol that evaporate faster than water will cool down an object to make it freezing cold.
Michael Faraday, an inventor from England discovers that he can cool down an object enough to freeze water when he compresses and liquefies ammonia.
Dr. John Gorrie invented the ice making machine. At a hospital in Florida, where he worked as a doctor, he useD compression to create ice and blew air over ice to create a cooling effect. Imagining he’s onto something he patented the idea in 1851. However his dream of cooling the world with his invention did not come to fruition when he failed to secure ample financial backing.
As we mentioned above, Willis Carrier invented the first modern air conditioning device. He invented the device for cooling air for a printing company called Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing company in Brooklyn, New York. Carrier then went on to create a company called the Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America with the goal of helping cool other factories throughout the nation. Because of his significant contribution toward the invention of the modern air conditioning device, he is now known as the Father of Air Conditioner.
A textile mill engineer name Stuart Cramer of North Carolina invented a device that added humidity to the air inside textile plants. This addition of water vapor do the air, which in turn, made air more humid made yarn stronger and easier to spin. He coined the term “air conditioning” to describe this process during a speech in Asheville on May 7th, 1906.
Charles Gates, a Minneapolis mogul becomes the first person to install an air conditioning device in his home for the first time. The air conditioning unit used in his mansion was it about 20 ft long and 7 ft high.
The credit to inventing window air conditioner that are so prevalent today goes to H.H. Schultz and J.Q. Sherman. When these window units first went on sale, they were quite expensive, costing upwards of tens of thousands of dollars and only the wealthy could afford them.
Air conditioning system makes its way into a car for the first time. Packard invents a car that is equipped with an air conditioner (A/C). However every time the car gets too cold, the driver must stop the car and manually disconnect the compressor belt to disengage the air conditioning system. Despite this cumbersome process, people are now able to drive longer distances in scorching heat.
Growing usage of air conditioning demands a greater electrical load. The US creates the first Power Plant, Riverside Generating Station, designed specifically to handle the “summer peaking load” of ever-expanding air conditioning installations and use during hot summer months. In 1942, the 60 MW steam turbine and boiler Unit 1 was installed at a cost of US$6.5 million.
S.F. Markham, a British scholar declares in one of his articles that air conditioning is the greatest contribution to civilization in this century. He wrote: “The greatest contribution to civilization in this century may well be air-conditioning — and America leads the way.” Interestingly, by 1980, the United States was consuming more air conditioning than all other countries combined, despite having only 5% of the world’s population.
The number of home air conditioning units in America reaches 1 million.
Window units lose their reign as the preferred method of home cooling devices as central air conditioning takes over. Cool air is blasted throughout the strategically located vents in the house to cool down the whole house more efficiently. Freon is used as the main refrigerant.
Auto manufacturers are required to stop using Freon as the refrigerant in cars. By 1996, auto manufacturers were required use the less harmful refrigerant called R134a. Freon is also banned in several countries including the United States for their harmful effects on ozone layer.
Air conditioning units take advantage of Wi-Fi and Smart Technologies to become smarter, cheaper and more efficient.